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Police reports detail crimes of the man called "Psycho'

Published Oct. 6, 2005

Police said the Gainesville student murders were some of the most violent, sadistic killings ever committed in Florida.

A batch of police reports released Monday prove it.

Records kept by the task force investigating the murders revealed that the five victims were mutilated, posed and, in one case, decapitated.

Danny Harold Rolling, a convicted armed robber and drifter from Shreveport, La., admitted it all when he pleaded guilty to the crimes last month.

Besides describing the gory details of three crime scenes, the reports show that police had plenty of help in the investigation _ much of it from inmates who spent time in jail with Rolling. Those inmates, some of whom nicknamed Rolling "Psycho" or "Psych Man," said he often made cryptic comments about his involvement in the murders.

The reports were turned over to Rolling's attorneys months ago but were withheld from public view until his trial. They provide insight into why the state believes Rolling should be executed for the murders and why his attorneys believe he is mentally ill and should be spared the electric chair.

Some details from the reports:

In each of the three apartments where the murders occurred, Rolling made a show of his work. In one case, he decapitated his victim and placed her head on a bookshelf, then posed the body so it was sitting upright on the bed. In another, he surrounded his victim with her belongings _ a calculator and mirror near her head, a watch by her ankle.

In conversations reported to police by various inmates, Rolling gave several motives for the murders. One inmate said Rolling killed women who he believed engaged in premarital sex; at two crime scenes, Rolling left the victim's birth control pills on display.

Inmate Paul Fuqua reported that Rolling told him "that the reason he would slice women up is because they thought they were too pretty for anybody and he couldn't stand that, so he made it where they wasn't so pretty."

There was no evidence Rolling knew any of the victims.

The reports show that Rolling was caught by an observant Hillsborough sheriff's detective and exhaustive work by the task force. After Rolling robbed a Hillsborough grocery store and burglarized homes in Tampa, Detective Ryan Garrett called the task force in September 1990 after he recovered a stolen car used in the store robbery.

The car had been stolen from Gainesville and contained numerous burglary tools. Garrett thought the task force might be interested. When Rolling was caught robbing a Winn-Dixie grocery store in Ocala a couple of days later and was linked to the Tampa robbery, the task force was on the way to establishing his guilt in the Gainesville murders. DNA testing of blood samples and other body fluids found at all three Gainesville crime scenes were the final link to Rolling.

After being caught in Ocala, Rolling told inmate Paul LaMarche Sr. that he robbed the store so he wouldn't get caught for the murders.

"(Rolling) said, "I'm the one that killed the broads . . . but they'll never find me here in jail,' " LaMarche said. " "They'll never suspect me. Worst they can do is give me 10, seven years. I'll be out in five.' "

Investigators tracked down three of Rolling's former girlfriends in Sarasota and Shreveport. In each case, the women were asked to give intimate details of Rolling's sexual preferences. The only recurring theme was Rolling's compulsion for cleanliness. One woman said he would jump from bed immediately after sex to wash himself. In two of the crime scenes, the victims had been cleaned after they were raped and killed.

A prostitute told authorities she had had "a date" with Rolling in August 1990 in a Gainesville hotel room. He took out medical tools and lightly scratched her body with them, outlining her arms, legs and torso. She also said he had women's make-up compacts and used the mirrors to rub her body. Meanwhile, she said, he sat cross-legged in a trance with a wild look in his eyes.

Rolling talked often to other inmates about his strained relationship with his father, a retired police officer from Shreveport. Rolling once told an FDLE agent that it had been difficult for him to live up to his father's expectations. Rolling told inmates he shot his father in the head before fleeing Louisiana and heading for Florida. He remains a suspect in a triple homicide in Louisiana.